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Howard County Times
Howard County

Howard County school officials ask County Council for more money in fiscal 2023

Concerned about the declining percentage of the county operating budget earmarked for schools, Howard County Public School System Superintendent Michael Martirano and county Board of Education President Vicky Cutroneo have asked the County Council to consider additional funding for the school system.

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On Monday, Cutroneo told council members that the percentage of funds that the county distributes to schools has been shrinking since 2016. According to Cutroneo, overall support for the school system has decreased from 54% of the county’s operating budget in 2016, to 51% in 2022, to 50% in 2023.

“Howard County has the second-highest property tax revenue per capita in the state and the stellar reputation of the school system helps to sustain this year after year,” Cutroneo said. “On behalf of the [school] board, we hope we can work together to identify ways to come closer to maintaining year-to-year funding levels.”

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Howard County officials are in the middle of hashing out details for the fiscal 2023 budget, with several meetings and work sessions between the County Council and Board of Education completed and several more planned this month before final adoption on May 25.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball released a proposed $2 billion fiscal 2023 operating budget April 18 that he said contains historic funding for public schools, as well as funding for economic development assistance, environmental programs, mental health services and public safety.

According to a memorandum sent by Martirano to the school board, Ball’s proposed budget for public schools in fiscal 2023 totals $1.025 billion, which is $71.2 million less than the $1.097 billion requested by the school board.

“To balance the budget, this $71.2 million gap will need to be closed by expenditure reductions, revenue increases, and/or a combination of both,” Martirano said.

On Monday, school system officials acknowledged the $1 billion investment, but noted that the percentage of county funding dedicated to schools is shrinking, when compared to past years.

Martirano stated that the increase in state funding alone will not be sufficient to implement state-mandated Blueprint for Maryland’s Future reforms.

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“While the budget proposal currently before the council will allow us to meet the bare minimum current mandates of the Blueprint, we will have to make very difficult choices related to items such as the hiring of adequate teachers and student support staff, special education, post-pandemic supports, transportation needs, adjusting school start times and other priorities of our stakeholders,” he told the council.

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The County Council has planned work sessions on the budget throughout May. The County Council will hold public hearing on the county’s budget plan will be held at 9:30 a.m., May 12, at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City. The meeting can also be accessed online at https://cc.howardcountymd.gov/Online-Tools/Watch-Us; you can sign up to give public comment at this link: https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/otestimony/.

The BOE will hold a budget public hearing Thursday at 7 p.m. To offer public comment, you can sign up online at this link: https://docs.google.com/.../14OQoioQmCDQZAYry.../viewform...

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